Change to fundraising rule debated

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Marshall County probably ought to keep the policy it has on student fundraisers.

That's what the Tennessee School Boards Association's lawyer told a member of the board here.

It's up to the school board to decide whether a fundraising activity is permissible, according to the current policy. Officials note a difference between raising money for charity and school needs.

Monday night, the Board's Policy Committee received copies of an e-mail from Joel Moseley, director of policy and staff attorney with the TSBA. Committee Chairwoman Ann Tears provided copies.

Moseley counsels the board to be "very careful" when allowing "third parties access to the schools for the purpose of raising funds," and warning "the potential for abuse is very high."

At the policy committee's meeting on June 3, board member Randy Perryman said, "I appeal to the committee to look at this again. I still think it's wrong not to allow fundraisers for Relay for Life, or St. Jude's (Hospital) or the veterans. The policy is aimed at keeping students from being taken advantage of, but we need to trust our principals on this."

The current policy states, "Fundraising activities shall be authorized by the board and shall be for the purpose of supplementing funds for established school programs and not for supplanting funds which are the responsibility of the public."

Board members Kristen Gold and Barbara Kennedy, and chairman Mike Keny agreed with Perryman. They suggested allowing fundraisers "to promote citizenship," or support tax free organizations as permitted by section 501(c)(3) of the federal income tax code, or if sponsored by a club or a teacher.

Cornersville High School principal Bob Edens said the fundraising policy was ripe for change.

"Rules are made, but we forget the human factor," Edens said. He explained that a student died of cancer recently. It would have been a "great gesture" if the school had a fundraiser and gave money to the family.

Moseley writes, "The policy in question provides a set of objective criteria that are 'viewpoint neutral.'...The board must be very careful when they grant waivers or exceptions to the policy, as it opens them up to a charge of viewpoint discrimination."

Tears described other policy changes approved by the committee as "mostly housekeeping connected with Race to the Top."

Returning to a previous discussion on zero grades for work missed due to unexcused absences, Tears said schools director Roy Dukes is trying to set up a meeting between Juvenile Court Judge Steve Bowden and the school principals to discuss the most effective way to deal with truancy in the schools and, ultimately, in court.

School board policies are on the Web at Click on "School Board" and then on "Policy On-line" at the right side of the page.